August 1, 2014

Senate Democrats vote to establish state-run home for delinquent girls

Democrats in the Iowa Senate have passed a bill that calls for the state to operate a facility for delinquent teenage girls that’s comparable to the facility in Eldora for delinquent boys.

Republican Governor Terry Branstad closed the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo last month after reports the teenage girls there were being mistreated. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says the state needs a secure, “locked facility” like the Juvenile Home available for young women who’ve been charged with a crime.

“This bill represents the best advice to address the problems that we all want to correct and I’m disappointed that we have failed in bringing forward from the Iowa Senate a bipartisan bill,” Bolkcom said.

All the Republicans in the Senate voted against the measure and they argue the state can find private facilities for these troubled teens.

“The juvenile justice system, I believe, can find alternative placement of juvenile offenders without compromising public safety and we can do that without a government facility,” said Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan.

Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix issued written statement, accusing Senate Democrats of trying to “grow government” with more “bricks and mortar.” Democrats argue the state has an obligation to provide equal treatment and, since there’s still a state-run home for delinquent boys operating, a home for delinquent girls should be operating as well.

Republicans control the debate agenda in the Iowa House and the bill from Senate Democrats faces an uncertain future.